Volume III, Issue 3, Page 6
Words and photos by Ro McGonegal

Please view this as a technical brief rather than any kind of road test. We thrashed a 3.6-liter DOHC V6 Malibu LTZ a few months ago and are happy to report that the Hybrid Malibu from whence it came is no less impressive in terms ride, handling, and road manners. In spite of its modest power output, the car remains vault-solid and imperturbable.

Let’s call this an experiment, though, a program to brighten GM’s presence in the pack, albeit years late compared to some of the imports (e.g., Honda and Toyota). To its credit, the Malibu Hybrid is a mid-size vehicle, not a raisin box, making the owner feel safer if not quite impressed with the “savings.” “Look, my hybrid is a big car, not some commuter-oriented egg carton.”
Though it’s supposed to be “seamless” ours wasn’t quite so. When it transitioned from stop mode to go mode, there was a discernable judder in the drivetrain. There’s power and then there’s responsible power like the hybrid hi-jinx defined here. So what’s responsible power get you these days? About 2 mpg increase over the standard 2.4L Ecotec, not very much unless you factor the long, long run. In plain English, the Hybrid assist is probably more valuable for increases of 7hp and a nice, fat 44lb-ft of instantaneous torque. As such, the car accelerates moderately. A Pro Mod it ain’t.  

Hybrid hardware on your basic 2.4L VVT (variable-valve timing) Ecotec engine is beneath that stylish noise suppressor. The highlights include the 36-volt electric motor generator and the ECU module that helps to manufacture 115lb-ft of auto-start torque and 3,000 watts of continuous generating power. Maximum engine speed is a zingy 6,900rpm.  

The other half of the equation is a nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) 14.5 kW battery (lasts at least 7 years) and ancillaries nestled neatly behind the rear seat backs.